Another teen sexting scandal. Another set of questions about what schools should do.

Are sexting scandals the responsibility of schools?

Why do we hold schools accountable when teens send one another nude or semi-nude photos via iPhones bought for them by their parents who likely also pay the monthly bills?

Celebrities like Kim Kardashian are lauded for their sexy selfies. It's not surprising teens are following suit.

Celebrities like Kim Kardashian are lauded for their sexy selfies. It’s not surprising teens are following suit.

It’s not because kids attend X or O high school that they send nude photos. It’s because they’re sexually curious teenagers who have technology that makes both taking photos and sending them a snap. And they are growing up in a culture where celebrities are exalted for sexy selfies and where nudity is no longer taboo.

The only people who have immediate control over the sending of these photos are the owners of the phones – the parents. They can seize the phones and close the accounts. They can also teach their kids that taking naked selfies and sending them to friends is a terrible decision that will likely end badly.

I don’t understand why schools are held responsible when sexting occurs.

Consider the latest news that more than 100 teens exchanged nude photos in Cañon City, Colorado. The focus of the story is not the town where the kids live but the school they attend. Reporters are quoting the principal and the superintendent about what they are going to do. When parents are quoted, it’s to question why the school didn’t detect and stop the sexting sooner.

As The New York Times reported:

The revelation has left parents outraged, administrators searching for missed clues, and the police and the district attorney’s office debating whether to file child pornography charges — including felony charges — against some of the participants.

George Welsh, the superintendent of the Cañon City school system, said students at Cañon City High School had been circulating 300 to 400 nude photographs, including images of “certainly over 100 different kids,” on their cellphones. “This is a lot of kids involved,” he said, adding that the children in the pictures were believed to be students at the high school as well as eighth graders from the middle school.

The Tmes concludes its long piece with a quote from an expert:

Amy Adele Hasinoff, an assistant professor at the University of Colorado Denver and the author of a new book, “Sexting Panic,” contends that schools need to find new ways to talk to students about the issue. Rather than just demanding that students abstain from sending risqué images, she said, educators should aim for open conversations that involve guidance in “safer sexting” with trusted partners. Teachers and school officials “think they’re protecting people from harm,” Professor Hasinoff said. “But we know it doesn’t work.”

I understand why people want schools to address sexting. Schools have a captive audience in their students. Schools represent an efficient way to reach a lot of kids at once, which is why we continue to broaden what we expect schools to teach beyond math, science and reading.

As an editorial writer, I was struck by how many advocates would meet with the AJC editorial board to explain their need to reach kids with their important warning/message/campaign. It might have been about smoking, healthy eating, civics education, driver’s ed, sexually transmitted diseases  or teen pregnancy. All the advocates had the same proposal: Compel schools to assume the responsibility to communicate the information to students.

So, now we have added sexting to the list of social concerns we want schools to address, monitor and prevent?

I have two teens. If they were sending or getting inappropriate photos, I would call the parents of the other kids involved. I would call the police if the photos crossed a legal line. I would confiscate their phones.

But I would not call the principal of their high school. This is not her responsibility. She didn’t give my kids and their friends smartphones. She’s not paying a monthly ransom for them to keep and use the phones. 

Can someone explain why so many people believe schools should be held responsible for sexting? Is there a reason to demand schools act when sexting occurs rather than parents?

 

 

 

Reader Comments 0

30 comments
eyla
eyla

Those students at Canon City HS in Colorado got off with absolutely no consequences.  All this shows them is that they can get away with anything and the parents with make excuses.  The kids laugh at "counseling" and "education".  Making and passing around under aged porn at Canon City has been a tradition for years and it's not going to stop now.  I feel sorry for the girls that go to school for an education and not to be porn stars.

4PublicEducation
4PublicEducation

Sometimes the sharing happens at school.  A third grader brought an old phone his dad let him have and shared vulgar pictures with classmates at lunch.  We took up the phone, contacted parents and police followed up because the lewd picture was sent from one of his father's friends.  They established that picture was sent to father, not child, so no crime was committed.  Lots of time wasted, several embarrassed adults, and innocent children exposed to inappropriate images that cannot be undone.  No school wants to waste time and deal with this nonsense, but parents are the ones insisting their kids have these phones and bring them to school.  If it were up to school personnel, the phones would not be on campus.

Surelyyoujest
Surelyyoujest

Wow - you want parents to take responsibility for their kids - surely you jest..... 

F101Voodoo
F101Voodoo

Good question about parental vs. school responsibility. The school is looked at because that's where the kids involved are spending lots of time together every day. Obviously, it's the parents' responsibility.

FormerTCHR
FormerTCHR

More and more parents want the school to stand in their place and deal with the bigger problems.  Too many parents want to be a friend to their child and not a true parent.  Being a parent means making tough decisions and walking that very thin line between trusting their teenager and being too intrusive.   If a parent is not monitoring their child's use of a smart phone and social media then they have simply abdicated their parental responsibility.  Who is responsible for this sexting?  The teens doing it and the parents who are oblivious to their teen's online behavior.  The school comes in a distant third. 

class80olddog
class80olddog

Here is a REALLY crazy idea! Hold the STUDENT responsible for his/her action!

MaryElizabethSings
MaryElizabethSings

"Consider the latest news that more than 100 teens exchanged nude photos in Cañon City, Colorado."

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Sexual education in schools, because of this reason (passing nude body parts on cell phones), should only be appropriately taught in a sexual education or biology class.


However, what should be taught relative to this situation (in social studies, English literature, or history classes) is the destructiveness in following group norms, blindly, instead of developing the autonomy to think and act for one's self, in one's own conscience.  Blindly following group norms in any situation is an indicator of a weakness in character.  That certainly can be expounded upon in the classes I have mentioned because weakness in character affects the soul of a nation.  By "weakness of character" please note that I am not addressing matters of sex, but of following others blindly, in any area. Teenagers, developmentally, will follow peer pressure too often in drinking, sexual matters, driving, etc. 

This is one more reason why a teacher must be able to decide in her own classroom whether or not students may use cellphones (for instructional purposes) and she should be given the authority to enforce the rules she determines will aid in fostering excellent instruction for all students in a harmonious environment.


Independent ED
Independent ED

Funny thing is, if students' phones get taken up at school, parents complain about overreach...


Independent ED
Independent ED

"Rather than just demanding that students abstain from sending risqué images, she said, educators should aim for open conversations that involve guidance in “safer sexting” with trusted partners."


SERENITY NOW!!!  To paraphrase Yoda, "This...is why we [humanity] fail."

channum
channum

Agree 100% with Ms. Downey!

redweather
redweather

The only way I see this being the school's responsibility is if the photos were taken on school property during school hours. Otherwise, this one is on the parents. 

HeyThere
HeyThere

Great point Maureen, and a somewhat conservative-sounding one that I don't hear a lot of conservatives making. Schools play many important roles in our lives but monitoring the activities of students on their phones isn't one of them.

1Robert
1Robert

@HeyThere Really ?  You really think conservatives want schools monitoring children and would blame this on the school ?  I am a conservative and don't even think what the kids did was wrong, why would they need monitored ?  It the kids camera and body, let them do what they want.

POV1948
POV1948

Bullseye.  This is just one especially egregious example of how absurd are the expectations that are put on schools. Parents are the first line of influencing teen behavior.  If parents are unhappy with what's going in in their kid's life, take responsibility and do something other than point fingers.  

missgrace
missgrace

Agree totally. First we need to remember that teens and tweens are sexual beings and their parents need to address this. Why are we so surprised and confused with setting What the heck do you think is going to happen when you give media devices to kids? They need to be taught and guided by parents.

dougmo1965
dougmo1965

The only time the schools should be involved is if it determined that pictures are taken on school grounds. 

BG927
BG927

Thank you for this, Maureen! This is nearly 100% a parenting issue. While policies vary from district to district, in mine we're not even allowed to confiscate phones if they are being used inappropriately in class.

Do you know when I found out about photo vault apps? When this story broke! I'm sure the same could be said for a lot of the teachers in that district, particularly if they aren't parents of teens. If I were to look at one of the offending phones and saw only a calculator, I would've been none the wiser. If I'm the parent, and I'm paying for the phone, I might be inclined to dig a little deeper, but that's not something I'm going to be comfortable doing with a student's phone in this litigious society.

MaureenDowney
MaureenDowney moderator

In keeping with the theme of this piece, I just read a Bill Moyers quote: "For the life of me, I cannot fathom why we expect so much from teachers and provide them so little in return."

CSpinks
CSpinks

Maureen, could it be because some parents don't want to assume their responsibility while others are so consumed with their occupations/jobs/careers that they don't have the time and energy to do so? 


When will school boards, administrators and teachers assert the proposition that their missions are to educate children, not to rear them?

Wascatlady
Wascatlady

The same reason some folks think the school is responsible for nearly everything else--because someone in educational administration (federal, state, local) is willing to take it on as a school responsibility!  Too many parents don't want to be the "bad guy" and control their kids!  Too fat?  Sexting? Emotional problems? Inappropriate use of resources?  Let the schools fix it!


At some point those who are expected to do this have got to tell parents, legislators, governors,Federal DOE, State DOE, local school boards to SHOVE IT!

CSpinks
CSpinks

@Wascatlady When do we start, Wascatlady?


    Georgians for Educational Excellence(GEE) on FB


Wascatlady
Wascatlady

@CSpinks @Wascatlady Wouldn't it be nice if that principal, when parents demand he do something, lets his glasses slide down his nose, peer over the edge of them, and say, "Excuse me?"


I am wondering if these are the same parents who swear that their children MUST HAVE their cell phones available at all times during school hours, as some have done on this blog?

CSpinks
CSpinks

@Wascatlady @CSpinks As many teachers appreciate, local school boards are notorious for selecting "go-along-to-get-along" applicants for administrative positions. But, in fairness to local boards, inasmuch as ours is a nation of cowards, the pickings for courageous principal-applicants are slim.